New York: U.S. prison units specially designed to muzzle communications by inmates considered extremist are unconstitutional and discriminate against Muslims, according to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The 77-page lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia takes aim at so-called Communications Management Units, which one critic called "a stateside Guantanamo."
Five current and former prisoners held at the units argue they were held in an extreme environment that did not fit the crimes they were convicted for such as material support for terrorism and terrorism linked with environmental activism.
Prisoners said they were not adequately informed before they were transferred in or out of a unit, or told why their communications were under such intense scrutiny, the suit said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP), all correspondence and telephone calls to prisoners housed at the units are monitored and must be in English unless a translator is present. Inmates are forbidden from having physical contact with family and visitors, who can visit for up to eight hours each month.
The two units for males only are located in Marion, Illinois, and in Terre-Haute, Indiana, housing a total of 76 prisoners, according to BOP.
The first unit was created in 2006 after it was discovered that Islamic militant prisoners took advantage of unscrutinized communications to send messages abroad.
They were set up under Republican President George W. Bush and while critics have pressed the Democratic Obama administration to modify them, there has been no policy change.
Speaking at a recent U.S. congressional budget hearing, Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin said: "As you recall, you were angry at us because inmates were inappropriately communicating. ... We`ve put in procedures and processes to stop that, minimize the likelihood that would occur."